Pronunciation of singular/plural
I love learning french, but when I am required to write what the recording says, I have the hardest time telling the difference between singular/plural.
For instance: le/les, somme/sommes, femme/femmes, homme/hommes.
I can't really decipher the difference between some words and their plural partners.
I'm having some similar problems. One of the "issues" with the french language is that they often don't pronounce the last letter of the word, such as the last -t in petit (although they do in the feminine version petite). So when you have a sentence like "Les pommes sont bonnes" every -s is silent (except for sont). The "trick" or clue is the use of "sont". If there was only one apple then the sentence would be "La pomme est bonne."
Another thing you can listen for is the liaison between a word that ends in -s and a following word that starts with a vowel or silent -h. In the sentence "Les enfant sont bonnes." you can hear a liaison between les and enfant. (the -s makes a -z sound leading into enfant). If you put these two example sentences into Google Translate you can hear the difference. (Here is a decent introduction to the ideas behind liaison if you don't have a lot of experience with it. http://french.about.com/library/pronunciation/bl-liaisons.htm)
Keep in mind that unlike English, french makes many of their words "match" in number as well as in gender. So when you're first working on plurals double check to make sure all of the words "match" in both number and gender. As you practice it gets easier.
I know this is an old post, but I had some input too. Duolingo makes it sound like there is a difference between Le and Les in pronunciation (same with de and des). It almost sounds like Le is pronounced like "loo". De kind of sounds like "doo" as well.
That's because the "e" in French is not pronounce like the e in let, but like the a in sofa. This sound is a schwa, or [ə]. So "le" is pronounced [lə], and "de" is pronounced [də].
As Bill-Roca mentioned, in french singulars often sound the same as plurals, so you must listen to the article before them (le, la, les, du, de la, des, etc). To clarify, le (singular) sounds kind of like "luh" and les (plural) sounds like "lay". Other words, such as de and des, me and mes, etc. are pronounced similarly, although they mean different things.
If you can hear the words side-by-side it really helps pick up subtle differences. For this I use a speech synthesizer. For example go to http://www.acapela-group.com/ and there are three French options (France, Belgium, Canada) with a variety of voices or moods for each version (12 voices for French(France) for example).
So pick your dialect and enter something like this text string, with different punctuations to pick up different pauses: "le, la, les, le. la. les. de, du, des. somme. sommes, femme. femmes, homme, hommes." Then click 'listen' to play. Sometimes I could hear it better with one voice than with another.
Note that often the plural sounds exactly like the singular but you can pick up the correct answer by the le or les, or de or des, for example. So concentrate on those first.
This worked well for me when I was studying French, and to a lesser extent Spanish. Bonne chance!
This is a really helpful thread. So I typed in a phrase in the acapela group link and I'm still confused. I put in Elles manges des pommes and Elle mange de pomme and they sound the same. I get these wrong all the time on the listening part of Duolingo!
I've been noticing this exact thing in my Duo lessons, and the only conclusion I can come to is that there's a very subtle difference between the pronunciation of "de" and "des." It seems like "de" (singular) is pronounced like "du" and "des" (plural) is pronounced like "day." If you pop both of your sentences into Google Translate and click the Listen button you can sort of hear the difference.
Ahhh, all of these are such helpful tips! Thanks for the responses everyone. =)
I was wondering the same thing about French. But learning english at first is difficult for me too with all the ending sounds (Still struggle with it) because in my mother tongue we do not spell the ending sounds that clearly
Anything that ends with "s" like always, plural form... or "t" like government, contact, list... or "ed" in the past form (I usually forget to spell them :P)
Well I can sort of help with the first one. For le/la/les, I find that "le" and "la" sounds like they are spelled, but "les" sounds like "lay" or "lays". That's just what works for me, I hope this works for you as well. If it doesn't, sorry for wasting your time.
The other words I cannot help with because I can't figure it out either.